Phoenix Suns Friday Flashback – Ayton comes up strong in low-scoring thriller

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

With the offseason in full swing, every Friday ‘Valley of the Suns’ will delve back into the archives to deliver readers a review into some of the best Phoenix Suns playoff performances of all-time.

Last week we delved into an heroic individual playoff performance from Devin Booker, but one that ultimately produced a disappointing result for Phoenix Suns fans. This week, let’s get back on a positive note and have a look at a rather underrated performance from the same playoff run.

Deandre Ayton’s 2021 playoffs is most remembered for a crazy alley-oop buzzer beater to win game two of the Western Conference Finals. But what often gets forgotten behind that is his impactful, game-winning performance in game four of that series.

The Los Angeles Clippers had responded as the sides headed to game four with the Suns leading 2-1. As Phoenix sought to take control of the series before heading home, the game would prove a decisive point in the Suns advance.

Deandre Ayton’s two-way performance ultimately allowed the Phoenix Suns to take a crucial 3-1 lead in the 2021 Western Conference Finals.

Ayton was active from the start, cleaning up an offensive board from a Booker missed layup for his second bucket of the game. He helped the Suns jump out to a quick start, with the Clippers’ offensive struggles limiting them to 36 points in the opening half.

But after taking a 14-point lead into the third quarter, Phoenix’s own offense slowed down considerably, giving the Clippers an opportunity to get back into the contest. By the end of the third, the Suns lead had been cut to three.

Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker
Paul George, Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Fortunately, both teams’ offensive struggles well and truly continued. After some nervous moments, Phoenix eventually prevailed with an 84-80 win in a low-scoring thriller. Ayton’s work on both ends continued to be key in the second half, coming up with multiple blocks and some timely pick-and-roll finishes in an otherwise stagnant Suns offense.

His box score doesn’t absolutely scream out, apart from a mammoth 22 rebounds which ranks third in Suns playoff history. His usual efficient offense was huge though given the context of the battle.

Ayton’s 19 points came on 8-for-14 (57.1%) shooting, while Booker, Chris Paul, Jae Crowder and Cameron Payne combined for 17-for-60 (28.3) from the floor. The 6’11” big man also added four blocks, three assists and was a game-high +8 in plus-minus.

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A truly impactful two-way performance from the former number one overall pick. With Ayton re-signing with the franchise this offseason, here’s hoping to more memorable playoff performances from him in a Suns uniform.